The last time we touched base with Nice & Smooth was in 1991 with their second album Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed, which if you read my review on that album, you already know I thought it was pretty mediocre (but, if you would like to read my thoughts on its mediocrity, click here). The album did produce a couple of pretty decent sized hits, and things would only get better for the duo when they teamed up with the legendary Gang Starr to create the B side record turned classic, “DWYCK”. That would only help build the anticipation for their third full length release Jewel of The Nile in the summer of 1994.
Like their first two projects, Nice & Smooth (more so Greg Nice) would handle most of the production work with a few helping hands lent here and there. Ultimately, Jewel would do modest numbers and was met with mixed reviews. I actually loved the lead single from the album (more on that in a bit) but didn’t buy it until I found it used a few years ago at one of the Records stores I frequent, so this is my first time listening and living with the project until now.
So without further adieu, let’s do what we do…
Return Of The Hip Hop Freaks – The first song of the evening finds Greg Nice ripping the drums from Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” and laying the slick xylophone loop from KMD’s “Peach Fuzz” (that KMD actually borrowed from an O.C. Smith song) over it. The concoction turns out to be melodic banger, as he and Smooth B drop respectable verses over it.
The Sky’s The Limit – Greg Nice builds this backdrop around a loop from Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (rip). Greg Nice delivers a solid verse, keeping pace with his partner in rhyme Smooth B, who is clearly the better emcee of the two. This song might not grab you at the first listen, but the more you listen to it the better it sounds.
Let’s All Get Down – Slick Rick stops by and joins Nice & Smooth on this one, as each of the three spit a quick sixteen. Unfortunately, none of three sound that impressive on the mic, and Greg N-I’s instrumental is boring as shit.
Doin’ Our Own Thang – Nice & Smooth spew more playful random rhymes over this animated Mark Spark production (Smooth B even mentions in his verse that “this beat reminds me of Hansel and Gretel”, which made me chuckle). I wasn’t crazy about this one.
Do Whatcha Gotta – Showbiz (as in Showbiz & AG) gets his first of two co-production credits on Jewel along side Greg Nice, as they give this instrumental a Latin touch that they hope will provoke you to get up and do the Lambada (as stated in the song’s hook). It definitely didn’t make me want to do the Lambada, but it was cool.
Old To The New – This was the lead single from Jewel, and it’s easily in my top five Nice & Smooth songs of all time. Luis “Phat Kat” Vega provides the smooth and brilliant backdrop that Greg Nice freaks first before his partner Smooth B completely bodies it. Classic.
Blunts – Showbiz and Greg N-I loop up a portion of Jack Bruce’s “Born To Be Blue” (that you probably remember being used on Smif-N-Wessun’s “Bucktown”) and place some rough drums underneath it, while Nice & Smooth each spit verses about…I’m sure you can figure that out based on the song title. This wasn’t terrible, but definitely not one of Jewel‘s strongest songs.
Get Fucked Up – Well, if you’re going to have a song about getting high it’s only right that you have one dedicated to getting drunk too. Too bad the song is trash, though.
Save The Children – Everlast (from House of Pain) jumps in the cipher with our hosts. All three of the emcees deliver solid verses, but Everlast completely murders Greg Nice’s fire backdrop built around frantic drums and some sick rock guitar licks. This is easily the best verse I’ve ever heard (no pun intended) Everlast spit. I’m not sure what this song has to do with saving children, but its dope, and tied for my favorite song on Jewel (next to “Old To The New”).
Cheri – Smooth B tests out his singing chops as he attempts to belt out a song dedicated to a woman named Cheri that he apparently hasn’t seen in some time. Mark Rooney and Mark Morales (aka Prince Markie D) get the production credit for this heavily R&B seasoned backdrop, while Rooney and JoJo (from Jodeci) add background vocals. Smooth B definitely shouldn’t quit his day job. This song is complete and utter trash.
No Bones Remix (Bonus Track) – This song may have the worst hook in hip-hop history. I’ve never heard the original version of this song, and after listening to this remix, I don’t ever want to hear it. Side note: Greg Nice starts his verse off on this song shouting out the legendary late comedian/actor/dancer Nipsey Russell and rhymes his name with “do the hustle”, which made me think about the recently murdered rapper/entrepreneur/activist Nipsey Hussle, who I’d be remiss not to acknowledge. Even if you weren’t a fan of his music, you have to respect the work he was doing in his community. May he rest in peace.
Let me start with the good (whenever you hear someone preface a statement with that line, brace yourself for the upper cut that is soon to follow): I love that throughout their catalog, Nice & Smooth has never extended songs with useless verses or bridges, but consistently sticks to the format of one verse each, the hook in between the verses and then they get the hell outta Dodge (unless of course, they have a guest come through). When all the songs are short, even listening to the bad ones is easier to digest. Speaking of bad songs, Jewel of The Nile has way too many of them. Maybe “bad” isn’t the right adjective, but when six or seven songs on an eleven track album sound like filler material, the results can’t be good, and definitely doesn’t earn you the right to label it Jewel of The Nile.